Because the West is losing its faith in an Afterlife in its new obsession of bingeing on material stuff, people in the West are desperate to prolong their lives, however miserable and pointless those lives may be. Never mind the quality, look at the length! Clive James says, ‘Religion is an advertising campaign for a product that doesn't exist’, therefore death really is, it seems, the end.
Nowadays there are more than six million citizens in the US alone over the age of eighty-five. It takes them years to fade away and of those six million old folk, five million have dementia. They are in a limbo between life and death, costing the state a fortune and obliging medics or family members to make all their decisions for them.
Those who are not ill or demented are engaged in a struggle to ward off that elephant in the room - death. There is to be no reward in paradise, not even torture in the fires of hell. Worse even than the latter, perhaps, is nothingness, oblivion. This is to be postponed for as long as possible. The preoccupation after fifty is what to eat, how much to exercise, how much to sleep, all to keep the Grim Reaper at bay, because only this life has any meaning, simply because for the new consumers it's all there is.
So, with the loss of spiritual values, we’ve invested all our energies into material goods, a better telly, a better mobile phone device, designer clothes and accessories. We work to enjoy and accumulate these goods now, rather than towards a later reward in heaven. There can be no postponement of gratification, reward must come now! Death will be the cut-off point of our wallowing in a consumer orgy. Death shall have dominion after all.
The lives of most ordinary folk are nothing to write home about beyond the age of eighty, so living to eighty-eight instead of eighty-five would seem to mean very little. Why not have a great life of sex and booze in our seventies rather than a long miserable penance in our eighties, following the health advice of people who themselves will probably die of boredom?
If there is a ‘knack’, it is to accept that routine is not life. Routine is the framework of our life and life is what goes on beyond the strictures of our routine. We should avoid being a slave to repetitive habit and try to be more spontaneous, more daring. If life is sacred, there is no rational evidence to prove it, so it could be treated as a valuable commodity, soon depleted, a window of light in eternal darkness. Celebrate the light!
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